Lessons of Ramadan & Keeping the Family Together
The Quran and the Hadith teach us much about the virtues of the family, which, in today’s world with all that is happening around us, we too easily neglect. After all, who can cope with our fluctuating temperaments as we struggle to cope with certain daily issues that come to test us? Misunderstandings ensue when we get all too caught up with the need to provide, the need to learn, and the desire for better, causing us to fall from the grace of our loved ones. Without realizing it, family members become strangers to each other, slowly growing apart. The home becomes a hotel as we give up putting in effort and time to be together. Ramadan is the one time in the year when night becomes day and day becomes night, unsettling the dust and the cobwebs we have allowed to settle. As we go into a new year, let not the lessons of Ramadan fade too quickly from our hearts.
Believe It or Not, Love Can Go a Long Way If We Show It!
In a strong family, the members love each other unconditionally. Feeling loved gives every member confidence and a higher sense of self-esteem, and this makes the family stronger as a unit. Shereen Khalil, clinical psychologist and former counselor at the AUC Student Counseling Center, explains that “Children need food to grow, but they need love to blossom. They need unconditional love. Do not tell your child, ‘If you eat your food I will love you’ or ‘I will not love you if you hit your brother.’ It is not true. You will love your child anyway. Your child needs to know that, so as not to feel threatened and scared of losing your love.”
It is also important to express love regularly. Khalil points out that children don’t automatically know how to express feelings; they learn by watching their parents. “Teach your children by being their example. They need to hear, see, feel, and know your love for them,” says Khalil, adding, “Parents need to express their love for each other in front of their children, too. A tap on the mother’s shoulder [by the father] or a welcome-home kiss can teach children a lot.”
Hoda Fares, 40, mother of Sarah, 21, Leila, 17, and Ahmed, 18 months, makes sure that the members of her family kiss and hug each other when the children come back from school or the parents come back from work. She finds this ritual extremely important because it’s a way of reassuring each other of how they feel. “It’s like saying ‘I love you’ every time we greet each other,” she explains.
Deal With Anger Positively
Ramadan is a good time to exercise self-control, especially while you are fasting. Remember that you are trying to set an example for your children. You are also trying to teach that Ramadan isn’t just about not eating. At times, you or other members of the family will get angry.
Learning how to deal with your anger positively helps avoid unnecessary conflicts where irreparable psychological damage can occur due to physical or verbal abuse. When you are angry, count from one to ten and then speak. Or remove yourself from the situation completely, cool down, and then come back and state how you feel.
Khalil explains, “Yelling at children is rarely effective. Children usually fail to understand when you yell, either out of fear, or simply because angry parents are not usually very skilled in using words. Often they are so angry that they can not choose age-appropriate words. They end up not making sense to the child. If you are angry about your child’s behavior, which will often happen, refrain from reacting. Tell your child that you are angry and cannot talk right now. Take time to calm down, think and then act. In this way you are making sure you are fair and reasonable.” She explains that by doing this, you are also teaching your child how to manage anger.
Spend Quality Time Together
Ramadan is a chance for families to spend more time together because all of the family members, who on normal days arrive home at different hours, will go home at the same time.
All members of the family need to spend time with each other, and even a small amount of time is beneficial when you make it enjoyable and meaningful. “It is not the amount of time you spend with your child that matters, it is the quality of time,” explains Khalil. “Spending no time at all with your child or an hour a month is, of course, not enough either,” she adds.
How do you make the most of your quality time? “Make sure you have fixed times to spend with your child so he or she can count on it. Do things you enjoy together. This varies with the age of your child, of course. Ask your child about his or her day at school and speak about yours,” Khalil advises.
Get Dad Involved
Children need both parents, not just their mothers. A father’s involvement is very important to give him the significance he deserves in his children’s lives. If a father works late and usually arrives home after his children are asleep, he can get involved at other times. For example, he can devote a day on the weekend to spending time with them. One of the best things about Ramadan is that the father comes home from work at a set time every day, which gives him the chance to spend time with his family during and after Iftar.
Keep in Touch With the Extended Family
Children benefit by keeping in touch with their extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins and particularly grandparents, who have so much love to give to their grandchildren. Enjoying that love gives children an even greater sense of self-esteem and security and helps the whole family develop into a stronger unit. One of the best times of the year for the extended family to meet is Ramadan when family members gather over Iftar several times during the month.
It’s never too early to start building a strong and close-knit family. You need to work on becoming close, because it doesn’t happen by chance!
Khalil concludes, “A family grows stronger and closer with acceptance of one another, respect of differences, open and accurate communication, assertive and non-aggressive expression of emotions, love, freedom and space to grow, trust, time and effort invested, and the will to make it work.”